The major geographic regions of Europe are based on a combination of culture and language; political boundaries and alliances; and climatic and terrain. They include the following, though keep in mind that there is some overlap in these definitions.
Western Europe consists of:
■ F rance; the Benelux countries of Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxembourg; and the German-speaking countries of Germany; Switzerland; and Austria.
■ T he British Isles consists of the United Kingdom (England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland) and the Ireland, and is typically considered part of Western Europe, though they are sometimes treated as a separate region.
■ S witzerland, Liechtenstein and Austria are sometimes broken out to form a sepa- rate Alpine Europe region.
■ N ordic Europe consists of Denmark, Greenland, Norway, Sweden, Finland and Iceland. Greenland (in North America) and the Faeroe Islands are autonomous territories of Denmark that are part of the Nordic Group. The Åland Islands situ- ated between Sweden and Finland are the other territory recognized as part of the Nordic grouping. Although a part of Finland, this Swedish-speaking territory has considerable political independence. Denmark, Norway and Sweden are col- lectively referred to as Scandinavia.
■ M editerranean or Southern Europe consists of the Iberian Peninsula, which is Andorra, Spain and Portugal; Italy; the Vatican City; Vatican City San Marino; Greece; and the island states of Malta and Cyprus. France and Turkey are sometimes considered part of Southern Europe, as well. Southern Europe and Scandinavia are considered separate from Western Europe in some definitions.
Eastern Europe is generally divided into two political and geographical group- ings. EU Accession States, those countries of the region that have either joined the EU since 2000 or which have applied to join, and EU Non-Accession States – countries of the region that have not applied to join or which are only at the very ear- liest stages of discussion with the EU.
■ The EU Accession States consist of Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, Romania, Slovakia and Slovenia, as well as the three BALTIC states of Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia. The Baltic countries regained their independence in 1991, after the formal collapse of the Soviet Union in 1990. Estonia, which has strong cultural, language and economic ties to Finland, has also attempted to portray itself as a Nordic country, although it is not formally a part of the Nordic group.
The Czech Republic and Slovakia were formerly the country of Czechoslovakia but separated peacefully in 1993. Historically, the accession countries have had closer ties to Western Europe than have other Eastern European countries.
Bulgaria, Romania and Slovenia are also a part of the B alkan Peninsula , along with Albania, Serbia, Montenegro, Croatia, the Republic of Macedonia and Bosnia-Herzegovina. These countries comprise the Southern part of Eastern Europe. Greece is also physically part of the Balkans but was never a Communist- ruled country as were the others. So for cultural and political reasons, including its earlier membership of the EU, Greece is normally discussed separate from the other Balkan countries.
■ THE EU Non-Accession States consists of Albania, Armenia, Belarus, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Georgia, the Republic of Macedonia, Moldova, Montenegro, Russia, Serbia and Ukraine. These countries were either formerly a part of the Soviet Union or the Republic of Yugoslavia, which fell apart in the early 1990s after the fall of Communism.